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Girls in ICT

Skills development for the digital economy

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Digital skills are key to digital transformation and a significant enabler of each country's digitization. Instilling the necessary skills has become a key part of national digital transformation strategies.

Strengthening digital skills will narrow the global digital divide. Among the main reasons why people are not using the Internet in developing countries is the lack of capacities and skills, either to use technologies or to benefit from the information and services available online. Enhancing citizens' digital capacities serves to boost Internet use.

Job seekers with digital skills generally have greater success in finding employment. In Europe, for example, nine out of ten future jobs will require digital skills. In sub-Saharan Africa, over 200 million jobs will require digital skills by 2030, creating the need for almost 600 million training opportunities, according to a 2019 study by the International Finance Corporation (IFC).

According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), ICT-related industries saw the strongest growth in employment during the pandemic. Demand for digitally skilled workers will continue to grow as the digitization accelerates across all industry sectors. While automation and economic disruptions could end many current jobs, new jobs will emerge in the field of digital technologies. In addition, many other jobs will require digital skills, ranging from basic to advanced.

As digitization spreads, so does the need in each country or region for digital infrastructure and skills. The new tools, solutions, platforms, and services that have mushroomed since early 2020 will remain part of the new normal after the pandemic. The areas, sectors, and occupations where digitization stimulates job creation will inevitably require increasingly advanced digital skills, knowledge, and capabilities. In the meantime, the transition is creating huge investment opportunities in training and skilling. The education, training and learning sectors must expand to cater to these needs.


As advanced digital skills become more important for employment, some experts foresee a “talent gap" for workers with or without advanced digital competencies. The growing need for ICT-qualified workers is exacerbated by various socio-economic inequities, such as the lack of Internet access for many people at home.

Even before the pandemic, digital skills gaps existed in both developed and developing economies, with different wage levels and job options for workers with basic, intermediate or advanced skills. Green and digital transitions could create about 60 million new jobs worldwide over the next five years – and an estimated 1 million in the EU by the end of the decade (European Commission, 2020).

The APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) Closing the Digital Skills Gap survey shows 75 percent of respondents – comprising employers, government officials and academics – noting a significant skills mismatch, while over half say government agencies have a weak understanding of the digital skills landscape.

An estimated 37% of the world's population is still not using the Internet at the end of 2021, according to the ITU data. In developing countries, some 43 per cent of the population remains offline, rising to 73% in the world's 42 least developed countries (LDCs). This stands in stark contrast to the highly digitized economies and societies seen in middle- and higher-income countries.

Over two-thirds of the world's school-age girls and boys aged 3-17 years (1.3 billion children) and 63% of youth aged 15-24 years (some 760 million youth) lack Internet access at home, according to the joint UNICEF/ITU report How Many Children and Youth Have Internet Access at Home. Globally, 2.2 billion children and young people aged 25 years or under do not have access to the Internet at home. In LDCs, only 22% of households have Internet access at home, compared with 86% of households in developed countries.

One of the main barriers to Internet uptake is people's lack of capacity and skills to use online platforms and resources to best advantage. The digital divide reflects other existing skills and education divides among populations. Usually, more marginalized groups, including women and girls, are less skilled and educated. Education levels are low in many low-income countries, resulting in lower capacities for reading, writing and languages. The usage gap – i.e., between people's access and actual use of the Internet – is widest in LDCs.

The digital skills divide also becomes evident as a gender divide. The gender gap among Internet users is largest in low-income and least developed countries. Girls and women often tend to be less educated or digitally illiterate in those countries.


With a wide range of projects that target digital skills, ITU contributes actively to the strengthening of digital capacities among its member states. ITU contributes via training for ICT professionals; basic and intermediate skills training for citizens and marginalized groups; a commitment to invest in skills development for young people; tools and guidelines to implement digital skills strategies; and international cooperation to help governments increase their digital capacity.

Training and capacity development for ICT professionals:

Basic and intermediate digital skills training for citizens and marginalized groups:​

Digital skills investments for young people:

Tools and guidelines for designing and implementing digital skills strategies:

Helping governments in strengthen their digital capacities:

Last update: December 2021​